Are Car Accidents Civil or Criminal Cases in New York?

cars sitting in traffic in manhattan, NY

Understanding your legal rights after a car accident is essential to ensure that you can receive the appropriate compensation. Depending on the circumstances of your accident, you may consider civil litigation, or the driver may face criminal charges. In certain cases, a car accident may qualify as both a civil and a criminal case. The legal differences between civil and criminal cases can greatly impact the amount and type of evidence that you must present, the type of compensation you can seek, and the punishment this driver will face.

The New York City car accident lawyers at Finz & Finz P.C. have provided the following information to explain the differences between civil and criminal car accidents. It is our goal to increase your knowledge of legal proceedings and to offer you the power to make informed decisions about your car accident case.

If you or a loved one suffered from a serious car accident, you may be entitled to significant compensation. You need to contact an attorney as soon as possible, to discuss your legal options and start working on your case. The attorneys at Finz & Finz P.C. are ready to take on your case right now, and we will fight to help you seek the money you deserve

Understanding Civil and Criminal Legal Cases

Civil law applies to injuries that harm an individual, a small group, or a corporation. Criminal law, on the other hand, applies to injuries that result when a person breaks the law and threatens the safety of the public, society, or the government. The type and severity of the injuries suffered during an accident typically does not determine whether a case is civil or criminal. Instead, the key determining factor between criminal and civil cases is the behavior that led to the injury.

When a person acts recklessly or knowingly breaks the law, they are more likely to face criminal charges. Some examples of criminal actions include murder, assault, and theft. However, if a person causes injury due to negligence or carelessness, they are more likely to face civil charges.

Types of Criminal Auto Accidents

In many cases, even if a driver breaks the law and causes an accident, their actions are still unintentional and are not subject to criminal punishment. Accidents that result from distraction, mistakes on the road, or even failing to obey traffic signals are typically considered civil cases because they harm an individual. However, when a driver’s behavior threatens the general public or poses a severe danger, they may face criminal charges from law enforcement officers at the scene of the accident.

Car wrecks that may qualify for criminal litigation include:

  • Drunk driving accidents: it is illegal to drive while intoxicated throughout the United States because intoxicated drivers are much more likely to make deadly mistakes and cause a devastating accident. Intoxicated driving is an example of behavior that poses a known threat to the general public and is therefore treated as a criminal offense. Intoxicated drivers may face criminal charges for their behavior even if they do not cause an accident.
  • Hit-and-run accidents: any time a driver is involved in an accident, the law requires them to stop their vehicle, provide medical aid if necessary, and exchange information. Even after minor accidents, if a driver fails to stop, they are breaking the law and may face criminal charges. The severity of injuries and property damage caused during a hit-and-run accident typically determines the type of penalties the driver faces, ranging from a misdemeanor and suspension of driving privileges to fines and jail time.
  • Reckless driving accidents: this type of accident occurs when another driver’s behavior creates an unreasonable level of danger on the road. Reckless driving refers to a wide variety of actions such as speeding, road rage, cell phone texting, or operating a vehicle without a license. However, most reckless driving accidents are not considered criminal cases, unless the driver’s actions cause long-term injuries or wrongful death.

Even if a driver faces criminal charges after a car accident, you can still file a civil claim against the driver. You need to discuss the details of your accident with a skilled attorney, to understand your rights and the legal action you may pursue if you were involved in a criminal car accident.

Can I File a Criminal Case After a Car Crash?

No, only the state or federal government can file criminal charges and begin criminal litigation. However, individuals harmed in an accident can pursue civil litigation as a means to seek compensation.

Ultimately, criminal litigation is designed to punish an individual for breaking the law. During a criminal case, the court must use substantial evidence to determine if the defendant is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” before they can punish this individual. If charged for their crimes, the defendant may face time in jail, probation, and significant government fines. Criminal charges can help you and your loved ones feel a sense of justice after a serious accident, but these charges do not provide you with any kind of financial support.

Filing an injury claim or seeking civil litigation gives you the power to demand compensation that is appropriate for the severity of your accident. In civil cases, you do not have to prove that the defendant is guilty of a crime. Instead, you must only provide sufficient evidence to show that the person is liable for your accident.

With the help of a skilled car accident attorney, you can initiate a civil case and recover a settlement, either through negotiation or in court. Civil car accident cases almost exclusively result in monetary rewards for you and your loved ones. The defendant will not face jail time as a result of civil litigation.

Contact a New York Car Accident Attorney

After a serious car accident, you and your loved ones deserve substantial compensation to help you heal from this devastating event. The attorneys at Finz & Finz P.C. are prepared to offer you unparalleled legal knowledge and experience, to help you seek the best possible outcome in your case.

You only have a limited time to file your claim after a car accident, so contact the New York car accident attorneys at Finz & Finz P.C. right now, by calling 855-TOP-FIRM or filling out our online contact form.

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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.